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Did Anne Frank have privileges? You?

For a Jew, privilege does not mean access, opportunity, or favors. It means responsibility to set an example, to live high and meaningful lives.

This week, Anne Frank was trending on Twitter, not because of her famous diary or because she was the victim of hate. Twitter users debated whether Anne Frank had “white privilege.”

Yes, you read it right. Thousands of people debated on social media whether the 15-year-old Jewish girl who hid from the brutal Nazis in an attic for two years and was eventually murdered in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp enjoyed a “privilege” for the color of his skin. skin.

For some people, privilege is something negative, something to be ashamed of and apologize for, but I don’t see it that way at all. Indeed, Jews are particularly privileged, but not in the way you might think.

Privilege is not a dirty word. To be clear, it is critical to be aware of the privileges you have been blessed with, recognize and appreciate that others do not share that blessing, and incorporate that awareness and recognition while demonstrating care and compassion for others. However, one need not apologize for the privilege or feel ashamed or guilty about having it.

On the contrary, the privilege is, well, exactly that: a privilege. One must be grateful, appreciated and, above all, feel tremendously obliged by the privileges that we have.

For some, privilege means receiving the benefit of the doubt or the presumption of innocence. For others, privilege means having access, input, and opportunity. For others, privilege means the comfort of feeling safe, secure, and protected.

a disadvantaged town

According to these definitions, in the context of history, and even now, Jews are among the most disadvantaged people. We have been the target of slander, false accusations and assumptions of guilt. These are not part of ancient history. A blood libel occurred in Massena, New York, in 1928.

In the context of history, and even now, Jews are among the most disadvantaged people.

We have been denied access and opportunity. As recently as the 1970s, Jews and Blacks were blatantly denied entry to country clubs in South Florida, an area considered “so Jewish” today. Many had signs reading “No Dogs, No Blacks, No Jews.” And it wasn’t that long ago that Jews were similarly denied or restricted from entering universities and graduate schools. In 1935, a Yale dean instructed his admissions committee: “Never admit more than five Jews.” Harvard’s president wrote that too many Jewish students would “ruin the university.”

Protection and security? In 2021, anti-Semitic incidents reached an all-time high, with a total of 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment, and vandalism reported to ADL. There were more than seven incidents per day of Jews in the United States being attacked, a 34 percent year-over-year increase. Anti-Semitic incidents comprise the majority of reported hate crimes in New York City. According to 2019 FBI data, Jews were 2.6 times more likely than Blacks and 2.2 times more likely than Muslims to be victims of hate crimes.

Racism is an evil that we must actively and categorically reject. At the same time, we must also be aware that anti-Semitism is on the rise globally.

The current attention to racism in America and the fight for racial justice is important. Racism is an evil that we must actively and categorically reject. At the same time, we must also be aware, and make others aware, that anti-Semitism is on the rise globally and there remain entire nations and countless people who seek the extermination and elimination of the Jewish people.

Two years ago, what are widely considered A-list celebrities with a huge social media presence praised Louis Farrakhan, a vile and unapologetic anti-Semite. In 2018, Farrakhan warned his 335,000 Twitter followers about “the satanic Jew.” As recently as October 2018, Farrakhan told his followers in a widely attended and shared speech: “When you talk about Farrakhan, call me a hater, you know how they do it, call me an anti-Semite. Enough, I am anti-termites!”

In many places around the world, including too many in the United States, a Jew feels the need to remove a yarmulke or outer Jewish symbols in order to feel safe. There is no privilege to protect it.

I share all of this not to argue that we are more disadvantaged or prejudiced than anyone else, but that even today, access and opportunity, the assumption of innocence, and especially security are not privileges that the Jewish people I can count so easily. turn on and enjoy.

Privilege breeds responsibility

So what do I mean that we are particularly privileged and should be proud of it?

Privilege is not just about how others view and treat you, but how you view and behave. Privilege is not how others treat you, but how you treat others. It is not what others do to you, but what you do with what you have.

The Mishnah teaches that God wanted to bestow merit on the Jewish people, so he bestowed a vast Torah with a plethora of mitzvot, commandments.

What are you doing “merit” to mean? Merit, zechut in Hebrew, it literally means privilege. God wanted us to be privileged, so he trusted us and commissioned us to live righteous, virtuous lives and transform his world into his vision.

For a Jew, privilege does not mean access, opportunity, or favors. It means responsibility, a tremendous responsibility to set an example, to live high and meaningful lives, to repair the world in his image, to be of service to others. It means rising above how we may be treated by others and treating everyone with dignity, respect and honor.

Being privileged should make Jews feel compelled and compelled to live more ethically, act more sensitively, and behave more honestly.

Jews have the privilege of studying Torah and being inspired by its eternal lessons. The Jews were given the privilege of the instruction manual for life, including the 613 mitzvot. Jews are privileged to be asked and expected to be at the forefront of the fight for justice, equality, fairness and truth.

The status of a privileged people is not intended to make Jews feel superior.

Being privileged should make Jews feel compelled to live more ethically, act more sensitively, behave more honestly, and proclaim their faith in the Almighty with pride and distinction, and never shame or embarrassment.

Part of the responsibility that comes with our privilege is to use whatever material privileges one has for good. Despite the many challenges that Jews have faced over the generations, most Jewish communities in the 21st century are blessed with the trappings of material and social privilege that our ancestors could never dream of. . Jews shouldn’t apologize for that; however, a Jew should never focus on his own right, but should think about how his resources can best be used to promote good in the world, even for the “disadvantaged.”

Privilege is not a luxury, it is a legacy. It is not a free pass, it is a weighty proposal. Privilege should not beget rights, it should require exceptional behavior.

I am proud of my Jewish privilege and I hope my children are too.

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